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Thursday, October 8, 2009

Putting Things in Perspective

I've devoted so much of my new life here in DC to teaching that it's often easy to forget that other things happen in the world. If you take it seriously, teaching is not merely something you do; it is who you are - your primary identity. Like everything, this reality has its pros and cons. I generally love what I do and wouldn't trade it for anything else (except in about ten five-minute periods throughout the day when I briefly fantasize about what it would be like to not have a job consume you or students disrespect you or your department head make you feel like you're the worst teacher who ever entered a classroom). However, when you fall too deep inside of it, you often forget that there was an entry point: a convergence of space and time where things that don't have to do with IEPs, classroom management, differentiation, standards, objectives, referrals, and attendance actually occur. It is this convergence point that I've been struggling (a most apt word here) to find and pull toward me. It's kind of like trying to find a needle in a haystack on a cloudy night. Where is it? Where is that perspective? that context?

I search for it at night while I lie in bed. I look out the window at the stars and try to focus on the relative insignificance of most of the things that I get hung up on throughout the day. That my third period AP class is a group of generally bratty, immature, too-smart-for-their-own-good or so-behind-they'll-never-pass-the-AP-exam girls who go out of their way to disrespect me is NOT one of the important things in life. That my department head has no earthly idea how to treat colleagues should truly be none of my concern. That I'm not entirely sure how to teach two new courses I've never taught before (both of which are combined into one and have the label of "AP" on them) might just slide off my shoulders............IF I could just remember that there are more important things in life.

Before I left my school in Seattle last spring, the seniors invited me to give their going-away speech at their senior barbecue on the last day of school. I remember telling them not to get caught up in all the crap that they deal with every day because the only things that really matter, the only things that you'll really care about whether you accomplished or not in the end, the only things that make life really worth living are the relationships you develop with other people. And while teaching is very much about relationships, and preparing students to live lives packed with fulfilling relationships, it's often easy to stress over the details. A lot of times it would just be helpful to detach entirely (although rarely possible). So I struggle, but it's a good struggle, a struggle that leads to growth. I just have to be careful that I don't let the details of the struggle screw up the meaningful part.

That's my perspective. I just have to do a better job of remembering that.

1 comment:

  1. This truly says it all. Perspective. I discovered this blog through a link from the post article. I did a two-year stint at what was then, Bell, and it is oddly wonderful to read the way your impression evolved from day one. It reminds me so much of my own journey. I was so impressed. With the building. With the jargon. The lofty goals. And I became completely caught up in the hype. When "veteran" teachers complained I chalked it up to negativity. Cynicism. LOL.

    But we can't be fooled forever, can we? And I think that's why we all become so angry when we see things for what they actually are. We believed. And even as the evidence piled up, not-quite-right on top of more not-quite-right, we still wanted to believe. Until one day it becomes absolutely clear: it is all smoke and mirrors. What could be more crushing?

    Perspective. It's what I didn't have the day I arrived or the day I quit. When we become so focused on the appearance of things (good and bad) we loose the truth of it all: that it is all (mostly) bullshit.

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